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The origins of flags lies in ancient history. Flags came to symbolise variously leaders, communities, gods, merchant and craft guilds, ships, and towns. A flag often gained the same respect as was accorded to the person or thing which it represented. In battle, the loss of a flag was a severe blow. The capture of the opponents flag might be the turning point in a battle. Flags often bore religious symbols, and were used in religious as well as state occasions.

The modern national flag arose in the seventeenth century, with the creation of the first modern states. Before that most countries had only had the flag of the rulers. Some modern national flags are even now used only by the government and military, with a different flag (a civil flag) used by the people.
A flag represents an idea, or an ideal. It is neither a mere piece of decoration, nor an object to be honoured for itself. It is honoured for what it represents. Many flags are held in high esteem for their history; for the sacrifices made by the people; for the qualities for which the country and people stand. Respect for the flag is one indication of patriotism. To fly the national flag is a sign of pride and patriotism. It a positive affirmation of loyalty and commitment. It marks out a country that has confidence in itself, and is comfortable with its place in the world, its history and its future.
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